An intoxicating draught

winter sleepwalker

Joan Aiken
The Winter Sleepwalker and Other Stories
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Red Fox 1995 (1994)

This collection of eight haunting tales by Joan Aiken is one to treasure, even in the paperback edition with its dowdy monochrome renditions of Quentin Blake’s colour illustrations. They are all in Aiken’s tell-tale style, redolent of traditional fairytales but served up as an intoxicating draught, a cocktail of bittersweet outcomes, humorous touches, resonant archetypes, sly puns and chantefable verses. Aiken tells us they were inspired by a series of paintings by Jan Pienkowski, though his are not the pictures that decorate the pages — delightful as Blake’s are it would be illuminating to see Pienkowski’s original art.

The eight tales are short, some more, some less than a dozen pages, easy to savour and digest in bite-size chunks.  Continue reading “An intoxicating draught”